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RootMetrics Tests YouTube 4G Mobile Streaming Performance in London

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 (9:24 am) - Score 938
london city shard

Mobile operator EE has come out on top in a new RootMetrics study of YouTube’s video streaming via 4G and 3G mobile networks in London, which rated all four primary mobile operators by several criteria (e.g. video resolution, time taken to start a video, playback freezes / buffering etc.).

The study is perhaps a bit academic in the sense that YouTube’s performance will be largely dependent upon general factors, such as the 4G network coverage and Mobile Broadband speed of each operator. However other factors, such as network routing / peering arrangements and Traffic Management measures, may also have an impact.

Overall EE came top, which isn’t a surprise because they tend to enjoy better 4G coverage and speed than any other operator in the capital (see here and here). By comparison the other operators often fell back to slower 3G networks, which would of course have an impact on their streaming performance and stability.

For example, RootMetrics were on EE’s 4G network nearly 100% of the time during testing and this dropped to 90% for Three UK.

Video performance ratings – London 1H 2017

Network EE O2 Three UK Vodafone
Rating (out of 5) 4.5 2.5 1.0 2.5

The study also found that consumers can expect to stream videos in 720p (HD) more than 95% of the time with EE, over 80% of the time with Vodafone and more than 75% of the time with Three UK. This is again down to the impact of video streams dropping back to a slower 3G service more frequently on some networks, which may struggle to handle a 720p stream without reducing it to a lower quality.

Scott Stonham, General Manager of Europe at RootMetrics, said:

“It’s clear that there’s a huge difference in the experience that consumers receive when streaming video from each operator in London. EE delivered the strongest video results, while Three struggled. An important factor contributing to this gap was how often we were able to access 4G from each operator during testing.

EE has the most 4G coverage in the capital, and as a result videos streamed on it are consistently high resolution and offer consumers the smooth experience they expect. However, Three, whose 4G coverage isn’t as consistent, frequently suffers drops in quality for streaming.

Consumers can expect video streaming performance to improve as operators expand their 4G coverage and network capacity, rising to meet the ever-growing demand for internet and video streaming services in the UK.”

It’s worth pointing out that Three UK are also one of the only mobile network operators in the United Kingdom to offer “all-you-can-eat” data plans, which is likely to mean that their network may also suffer from more congestion (resulting in slower speeds) due to people making more use of their Mobile Broadband connection.

Meanwhile rival networks tend to sell capped packages and this limits the customer’s ability to stream video content without also incurring hefty additional costs. Improving 4G coverage and speed is all well and good but limited usage allowances continue to hinder the flexibility of those services.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar David

    I’ve been on 3 for about 5 years now (in Glasgow) – and can’t say I’ve ever had any issues. I like that I can still tether and that my bill is my bill (no extras). I’d not considering going over to a network with any sort of a cap, and certainly won’t be giving EE my money now that they are part of the evil empire. Noticed that phone coverage in London is defintely slower, probably due to density of users.

  2. Avatar Ultraspeedy

    Bit pointless without detailing what videos were tested from youtube considering there are about 3 different codec types which will all have varying bitrates for the videos concerned. Weird also they think 3G is an issue, when that should do most 720p youtube content just fine most of the time.

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